In 2016-17, the St. F.X. X-Women basketball team struggled to win; the natural byproduct of a young, inexperienced team.
But in the struggle, experience was gained and now the 2017-18 X-Women are looking to make the learning pay off, as they start their regular season this evening (Nov. 1) at Dalhousie, and at home this Saturday (Nov. 4) at the renovated Oland Centre, hosting the Tigers in an early-season rematch.
Tip-off is 6 p.m.
“We’ve kept basically the same core of a young team that struggled last year, like many first-year players will; we had eight rookies on our team,” head coach Augy Jones, entering his sixth season, said.
“So I’m finding, this year, based on what they did in the off-season – they very much committed to their fitness level – and the confidence level, obviously, goes up once you’ve been around the league. When you come back to school, you feel a lot more comfortable at St. F.X., a lot more comfortable at some of the schools we have to play in the AUS … that’s a definite factor.”
And more experience with certain systems, such as on defense. Jones said defense ended up being a positive for the team last year and he expects it to be a real strength for this year’s squad.
“They are,” Jones said of his team’s comfort level with their defensive systems. “It’s a unique defense where we’re playing man and zone, and really trying to keep our tall players close to the basket; not having to play man-to-man, they just stick closer to the basket.”
“Our first year doing it, it was successful, but it was our first-year trying it and I find, after our six pre-season games, we’ve gone on the road and played excellent defense against very good teams. So this hybrid defense we’re playing is something our players and coaching staff are confident in.”
Jones mentioned the pre-season which saw the team compete in tournaments at Waterloo University and McGill University, and coming away still looking for their first ‘W’ of the season.
That could be helped as new players such as Kim Kingsbury and Alex MacLean find their footing at the U Sports level.
“Kim Kingsbury from Nepean, Ontario; she played for Mother Theresa HS,” Jones said. “She plays the wing position and is able to score and, also, has the attitude she is going to give everything she can on the court and it shows. You are less nervous when you’re just out there to give your 100 per cent and she is, definitely, a player like that, so she’ll be someone to watch.
“Also, Alex MacLean who played at Dartmouth High last year and at C.P. Allen before that; she is a great three-point shooter. She spent some time in the pre-season sitting out, because of some medical issue, so she is a little behind some of the other players, but she’ll be another rookie who is going to have an impact.”
As for a returner he expects to make more of an impact, Jones mentioned Antigonish’s Holly Scott; now going into her third year.
“She didn’t play a lot in her first year and, like a lot of first year players, she was a bit frustrated by that, but she put the work in and, right now, I would say Holly could be our overall best player,” Jones said. “She is hitting three point shots, driving to the hoop, rebounding, she is a captain on our team and I think the fans in Antigonish are going to be very happy to see a local player develop in our program to become one of the better players in the AUS.”
And Scott and her teammate will be doing it in a renovated facility, including the newly install Coach K Court, in honour of long-time men’s basketball coach Steve Konchalski.
“I’m someone who played for Steve and coached with the men’s team, when we won our second national championship in the 2000s,” Jones said. “Coach K is like a dad to me and I think it’s appropriate by St. F.X. I think St. F.X. makes a lot of good moves around acknowledging those people who have been a part of the university’s heritage, and Steve Konchalski is one of them.
“So, on that front, it’s great to be working on Coach K Court and, on another level, it’s a renovated court for our players,” Jones added, noting other schools in the AUS recently did work.
“If anyone gets their living room renovated, they feel good about that, and so, for us, our players are definitely excited to be in one of the better college basketball venues, in the country, now.”